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Over 60? Here's a Side Effect of Exercising Just 20 Minutes Per Week

New research says regular exercise can help slow the progression to Alzheimer's disease.
FACT CHECKED BY Alex Daniel
A senior woman stretches during her workout. Mature woman exercising. Portrait of fit elderly woman doing stretching exercise in park. Senior sportswoman making stretch exercises

You probably already know that when you hit the gym or go for a brisk walk in the park, you're not only exercising your muscles and your heart but also your brain. Regular exercise helps your brain form new neural connections, generates cell growth, and sends blood rushing to crucial areas of your brain that tend to lose blood over time. Among other reasons, this is why it's important that you make exercise a priority in your over-50 and over-60 years.

According to one study of people over the age of 54, which was published last year in the journal Economics & Human Biology, working out just once per week was helpful at protecting against dementia and staying cognitively sharp. Another recent study of cognitively impaired, older adults, which was published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, found that taking brisk, half-hour walks promotes healthy blood flow to the brain and improves performance while boosting memory function.

A more recent study published in the journal Alzheimer's Research & Therapy reveals something else: If you're over 60 and doing at least two sessions of 10 minutes of exercise per week, you can be helping your brain in profound ways. Read on for more about this study, and for more exercise news, see here to learn The Secret Trick for Walking to Get Lean, Says New Study.

1

Fighting Back Against Cognitive Impairment

mature man pushup

The purpose of the study, conducted by scientists at the Yonsei University College of Medicine, in South Korea, was to investigate the effects of exercise on those who suffer from mild cognitive impairment, as those who suffer from memory issues are likely to develop Alzheimer's disease.

The researchers analyzed data of 247,149 people between the ages of 64 and 69 in Korea with mild cognitive impairment over the course of six years. Of those participants, 40% of them did not exercise routinely, 18% began exercising after their diagnosis of cognitive impairment, 18% actually stopped exercising after their diagnosis, and 23% were regular exercisers before and after their diagnosis. After a six-year follow-up, the researchers were able to note the people who progressed to Alzheimer's disease, and those who didn't. And for more great fitness news you can use, read about the surprising Side Effect of Lifting Weights Just 2 Days Per Week.

2

You'll Reduce Your Alzheimer's Risk by 18%

Happy elderly couple exercising in a pilates class at the gym with three other younger people toning and strengthening their muscles using gym balls, focus to the senior man and woman

Six years later, notes the study's official release, "8.7% of those who did not exercise were diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease compared with 4.8% of those who exercised more than once per week. Of those who began exercising after diagnosis, 6.3% went on to develop Alzheimer's, compared to, 7.7% of those who stopped exercising after diagnosis."

The researchers crunched the numbers and found that those who suffer from mild cognitive impairment and "carried out vigorous or moderate physical activity for at least ten minutes more than once per week had an 18% lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease." What's more, those who exercised three-to-five times per week had a 15% less risk of progressing to Alzheimer's than those who exercised less than that. And if you love to walk for exercise, make sure you're aware of The Secret Cult Walking Shoe That Walkers Everywhere Are Totally Obsessed With.

3

Exercise As a Preventative Prescription

A senior woman stretches during her workout. Mature woman exercising. Portrait of fit elderly woman doing stretching exercise in park. Senior sportswoman making stretch exercises

The researchers note how crucial regular exercise should be as a preventative measure against further cognitive decline among older people, noting that exercise increases your brain's production of molecules "that support the growth and survival of neurons" that are known to decline with dementia.

"Our findings indicate that regular physical activity may protect against the conversion of mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer's disease," said Hanna Cho, a neurologist and an author of the study. "We suggest that regular exercise should be recommended to patients with mild cognitive impairment. Even if a person with mild cognitive impairment did not exercise regularly before their diagnosis, our results suggest that starting to exercise regularly after diagnosis could significantly lower their risk of developing Alzheimer's disease."

4

Some Great Exercise Moves for Those Over 60

man doing squats
Shutterstock

Consider this new study the latest to tout the benefits of regular exercise, even at smaller intervals, for aging people. After all, doing the right exercises will ensure that your body builds strength, stability, balance, mobility, and better posture—all of which are things that will ensure that you live a longer, healthier life. And for one great workout you can do, don't miss 5 of the Best Exercises You Can Possibly Do After 60, Says Top Trainer.

William Mayle
William Mayle is a UK-based writer who specializes in science, health, fitness, and other lifestyle topics. Read more